About a year ago we were trying to find out made the famous STP pajamas that Granatelli and his crew wore when they ran the STP turbine car at Indy. It all began at the 2013 Performance Racing Industry. We had been searching around for racing uniform companies because we needed a racing suit for our college team’s Bonneville car. At the USAC Awards Dinner, we met Nancy Chumbley, who owns Hinchman Racing Uniforms.
The next day the Hinchman staff told me about how the company had been making racing uniforms in Indianapolis since the 1920s. When fireproof suits became mandatory at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Hinchman, was on the “inside track” and became the main supplier. The new uniforms cost $75 then and many drivers could not afford them. Andy Granatelli knew Mr. Hinchman and he offered to buy racing suits for any driver that would put an STP patch on the suit. The driver could have other sponsors, as long as the STP was there.
On the way home I visited Jack and Nan Martin. Jack had been Director of Special Events at the Hall of Fame Museum for the Speedway. He was also president of the Society of Automotive Historians for a time and ran the Indy Bench Racing League. Jack knows history and he told me that he thought Hinchman made the STP pajamas for Andy Granatelli. According to the current Hinchman staff, they have the receipts for most racing uniforms they ever sold, but they had no receipts for manufacturing the STP pajamas.
So, we had a theory, but no hard facts and the conventional wisdom was that Hinchman probably made the pajamas. Or that was the thinking until we ran across a recent auction for a pair of the PJ’s on eBay. Pictured in the auction was the manufacturer’s label, which revealed that the STP PJ’s were made by Artex.
Artex Knitting Mills of Westville, N.J., is a family-owned business that has been knitting fine products since1926. Artex is one of the last great knitting mills in the United States. The company has survived the Great Depression, two World Wars, one Cold War, the dawn of a new millennium and, apparently, a couple of Indy 500s. We tried emailing Artex to get more information about the STP PJ’s, but so far we haven’t heard from them.
We would sure like to know, once and for all, the facts behind this iconic racing gear.